There is no doubt that friendly matches are important when preparing for the start of a season. It’s the first real test where players get to prove themselves to their coaches that isn’t part of a practice, and is the closest you’ll get to the experience of the real thing. In the same way, it’s great to get excited about a player who you can tell is excelling in the preseason. But it’s also very important to keep oneself grounded and remember that at the same time, it’s only the preseason.
Something like that occurred with the LA Galaxy on Sunday night when they played D.C. United in what was their final preseason match of 2022. The final score was 2-2, with Galaxy making a valiant effort after having trailed twice in the match. Both of LA Galaxy’s goals were scored by Mexican striker Javier Hernández. As you can see below, the first goal wasn’t a bad one. He took a great through ball which arguably is better than the goal itself, and through porous defending by D.C. United, he was left wide open, to where he fired a shot that wasn’t crossed enough and barely got by the keeper. The LA Galaxy spanish official account didn’t let the chance slip by to say hi to the Mexican NT.
But that wasn’t the end. Down 1-2, Dejan Joveljic took a ball wide open down the middle, face-to-face with the keeper, which he barely got the tip of his foot on to extend the ball to a wide open Chicharito, who scored another one of his typical goals with an empty net. One of the worst defending plays I’ve ever seen in my life. And a D.C. defender almost reached the ball before it crossed the goal line. A decent goal at best. It wouldn’t have been acceptable for that ball to end up in anything other than a score. It was labelled a “GOLAZO.” Golazo means a great or fantastic goal, referring to a shot outside the box that’s hung in the top corner or a goal displaying amazing skill and technique. Talk about cheapening the term. And of course, the NT reminder is there again. Oh, and with the added label of sniper. Sniper would actually refer to a long distance goal, not a wide open shot inside the box with an empty net.
Why the incessant push for Hernández to be called up to the NT yet again? We’ll never know. Have people already forgotten that he was a starter and key part to that 2014 WC Qualifiers team that barely made it to the WC through the intercontinental playoff vs. New Zealand? He wasn’t even the best striker back then (Oribe Peralta). And despite the fact he’s the all-time NT leading scorer, let’s not forget it’s the moment those goals are scored that counts. Not that he’s never scored an important goal in his life, but a lot of his scores have come after the fact. Such as the 2010 WC, where he scored vs. Argentina in the Round of 16 once the score was 3-0 in favor of the South Americans. Or his corner kick header to give Mexico a 3-1 lead vs. Croatia in the 2014 WC. Not to mention he’s been shut out and missed important opportunities when the moment has counted most. He’s simply been unreliable for the NT, there’s no other way to put it.
Now 33, with injuries holding him back some, he finds himself the star striker of the LA Galaxy. Clearly having lost speed and the edge he once had, he just can’t be asked to compete with tough defenders in CONCACAF or around the world, unlike the defender he sees on a weekly basis in the MLS. Here’s another example. He was T-3rd overall in goals scored last season with 17. However, Galaxy missed the playoffs entirely. Now take Zlatan for instance, who not only scored goals but had them in the playoffs. Talk about a player who truly impacts his team. In all fairness, we can’t take all credit away from Hernández either. He’s proven he can score goals anywhere he goes and has a great skill at positioning himself in the right spot. He has a knack for knowing where the ball is going to end up and that’s no easy task. So, we do give him that for sure. But when it comes to skill with the ball and coming through when it matters most, that’s where things get a bit shaky.
In the end, it’s in the Galaxy’s interests to prop up their players, show them off and have their NT call them up even if they’re in no way fit to be on the roster. It brings attention and publicity to the club, as well as the fact it increases his value, in case he’s sold one day to a club, like say, Chivas. It’s no secret Chivas have a special place in his heart and he could definitely consider closing out his professional career where it began. But let’s be real. With Raúl Jiménez, Rogelio Funes Mori, Hirving Lozano, Jesús Corona, and even Orbelín Pineda in the mix, there truly is no place for a player like Hernández. He’s clanky with the ball and can’t play Martino’s style, not to mention any style for that matter. He can’t keep up with the rest of the players, and that’s easily noticeable on the pitch. If Martino has done anything right so far, it’s been keeping Chicharito off the NT roster.